Little Neck resident Tyler Cacioppo had a ball last week as the Make-A-Wish foundation granted him his wish to play with his favorite soccer team, the New York Red Bulls. Cacioppo marked their 9,000th wish in the Metro New York area.
Cacioppo is an active 12-year-old with Crohn’s disease, a form of inflammatory bowel disease that usually infects the intestines. Diagnosed shortly before his sixth birthday after having been sick for a month with 104 degree fevers every day, he has lived half his life filled with doctor’s appointments, surgeries, and hospital visits. On a more daily basis, Cacioppo said that, “I have to go to the bathroom a lot during classes, and my friend’s usually don’t because they don’t have Crohn’s.”
None of that has stopped his ever-growing love of soccer, which he took up after seeing his older brother playing the game. Since then Cacioppo has taken the position of family soccer player, joining a travel team in the fifth grade, which he loves because he gets the opportunity to play against more competitive teams.
Although it is a common misconception that the Make-A-Wish foundation only grants the wishes of children with terminal illnesses, they serve those with life-threatening illnesses as well. They came to find out about Cacioppo through his gastroenterologist, Dr. Cindy Haller from Cohen’s Children’s Medical Center, who submitted Cacioppo as a very deserving candidate.
The foundation partnered with the New York Red Bulls soccer team to give Cacioppo a gift he will never forget. He was “pumped” before meeting the team, which includes his favorite player, French World Cup star Thierry Henry.
“It was really fun; it was cool how they passed the ball around. I learned many things that I can tell my team,” said Cacioppo as he excitedly described practicing with the Red Bulls before their big game against the L.A. Galaxy. “My favorite moment was practicing with the trainer Mike and Thierry Henry.”
Cacioppo also got to collect autographs and chat with the team over lunch in their players’ lounge. He then enjoyed the game, which the Red Bulls won, much to his delight. He even got to take home a signed game shirt from Henry.
Patti Cacioppo, Tyler’s mother, said that the process was very easy for them. It was a welcomed break from the stress and anxiety of having to see her son in pain so often.
“I always had this thought in my mind that Tyler’s life was going to be a fairy tale, that yes he was going to have ups and downs, but never did I think he would have to go through any of the things he has endured,” she said.
“Watching Tyler those two days being able to enjoy himself outside his normal doctor’s appointments, hospitals stays, nasal gastric tube feedings and just be a kid who loves soccer was one of the happiest moments I have had in a very long time,” she continued. “I wish it was longer.”
Mike Petke, assistant coach of the Red Bulls, immensely enjoyed helping grant Cacioppo’s wish, saying that he “had such a wonderful, emotional and gratifying day and I will never forget Tyler or his family.”
“I hope that I helped him take his mind off of his situation, even for a few minutes,” said Petke. It is safe to say that he did just that.